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Albert’s rod

Albert and Emerson owned many fly rods during their lifetimes, but admired none so much as the bamboo rod, which was the rod of their youth.  It was the only rod they truly trusted, a rod not yet burdened with the false reputation of being a flimsy and expensive artifact, a plaything of the rich, something to collect rather than used.

By the 1960’s technology had come to fly fishing and there were new rods appearing, made of fiberglass, fast rods, powerful rods.  Albert tried one not long before he died.  He wiggled it in Bate’s store a few times, a frown on his face, his motions stiff, forced.  The rod was nine feet long and threw a 6-weight forward line.  Again he wiggled it, then cast the line through the entire length of the store and into the street beyond.  He set it down.  “I just don’t feel it,” he said.  Again, he looked at the big, imposing rod, shook his head glumly.  “Don’t feel anything, really, except a kind of cold, clammy feeling.”

I touched the rod, studied it closely, thought of the beautiful cast Albert had made with it.  Why, the line must have traveled at least one hundred feet.  To me the rod seemed a thing of great power and even greater temptation.  I nudged the old man and asked, “What don’t you feel, Albert?”

“Trout.” said Albert abruptly, a tinge of disappointment in his voice, as though he had expected that I would grasp the rod’s failings as quickly and surely as he had.  “That subtle finesse that will put a No. 18 dry fly on a quarter at forty feet.  This rod is alright, I suppose.  It’s got power, but power alone won’t catch trout.  I’ll stay with bamboo.  It has grace, a soothing touch.”

Unlike the new glass rods, bamboo rods demanded regular attention and care.  There developed over time a loyal bond between the bamboo rod and the angler as one ultimately became the extension of the other.

Harry Middleton, The Earth is Enough

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